TRENTON — Five New Jersey residents have been charged with filing fraudulent applications for federal Hurricane Sandy relief funding, bringing the total number of people accused by state authorities with exploiting disaster relief programs since March 2014 to 91.
The latest group of people charged — which includes two Hoboken residents and an Upper Saddle River woman — filed claims for homes they said were primary residences when they were not, the state Attorney General’s Office said Tuesday.
Frank Russo, 83, of Brick, received $190,813 in relief funds for a home in Toms River that wasn’t occupied at the time Sandy struck in October 2012, authorities said.
Most state and federal relief programs are only available to those whose primary residences were damaged by the storm.
Jennifer Altman, 43, and Patrick Yannotta, 28, both of Hoboken, each allegedly received roughly $183,000 in federal funds for homes located in Toms River and Seaside Heights, respectively.
At the time of the storm, authorities say Altman was living in Hoboken and Yannotta was leasing his Seaside Heights home to renters.
Authorities say Jennifer Casey, 33, of Upper Saddle River, received $174,912 in relief funds for a second home in Toms River.
Carlos Paul Terzian, 54, of Manahawkin, received $30,021 for a second property in Manahawkin that was vacant when Sandy hit.
Each defendant was charged with theft by deception and unsworn falsification.
“Stealing any type of public aid is reprehensible, but it’s especially egregious to steal relief funds in the context of a historic disaster, when every dollar is needed for recovery,” Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice said in a statement. “We’ll continue to pursue these prosecutions with our state and federal partners, so we can guard these funds and deter this type of criminal conduct in future emergencies.”
Attorneys for all five defendants did not immediately…